ELIZABETHTOWN-As she thought about her mother, a lone tear came down the face of Tammy Vanderwerker.
She said that she would love to be able to hold her, to have her get to know her grandchildren, to have a mother-daughter relationship with a woman she barely knew.
June Marion Hopkins Collard was taken away from her two daughters and son in 1980 when her husband, Thomas A. Collard, said she left the family.
On March 31, Mr. Collard was sentenced under a plea agreement to an indeterminate amount of prison time between eight and 24 years for the self-confessed murder of his wife.
Collard previously had pled guilty to a count of first-degree manslaughter.
In a packed Essex County courtroom, Collard entered, in chains, at around 3:15 p.m., looking down as District Attorney Kristy L. Sprague announced that Vanderwerker wished to address the court.
During her remarks, Collard mostly looked down, often making facial expressions with his mouth.
"He buried her body right outside our bathroom window," Vanderwerker said. "That is quite sickening if you ask me."
Vanderwerker, who admitted at the beginning of her remarks that speaking to the court, "was not easy" for her, referred to her father only as, "the monster."
"From the time he killed our mother, we stopped being kids," she said. "I was the one that took the place of my mother in the family. He said to me over and over again, you're just like your mother and I will do the same thing to you. Because of him, I live my life in fear."
Vanderwerker said that she remembered few things about her mother, as she was 8 years old when June Collard was killed.
"Mom made our clothes, and her favorite song was 'Islands in the Stream,'" she said. "Those are all the memories I have of her. I should have known more about her. She should have been my best friend."
After sentencing, Vanderwerker reiterated her hatred for her father.
"I don't love," she said. "I'll never forgive. I'll never, never forget."
Daughter Candy Horan, who did not attend the sentencing because she felt her time and money would be, "better served providing our mother with a proper burial," stated her feelings in a letter to the court.
"I love you because you are our dad and I hate you because you killed our mother," Horan stated, as read by Sprague. "Did you ever stop and think of us kids and what this would do to us? No, I think not."
Thomas Collard shook his head a couple of times during the reading of Horan's statement, in which she talked about the hope of seeing her mother again based on Collard's story that she had just run away.
"What fools we were," Horan stated. "I believe that I will never get the answers, or that I will believe those answers ... (I) hope you don't have another day or another second of joy in your life."
Sprague then spoke on behalf of the state.
"He was a bully, he was good at it, and he liked it," Sprague said about Collard, who momentarily looked toward the section where Vanderwerker was seated. "There is not one redeeming quality about the defendant."
Sprague also gave the court a glimpse of the evidence the state had collected, saying that the confession Collard gave to the court about the murder was inaccurate.
"The cause of death was determined to be anywhere between three and six blunt-force traumas to the head," Sprague said, afterwards stating, "We had forensic pathologists look at the skull and that is one of many things that would have come out with a trial."
Sprague then offered her recommendation based on the family's input.
"They ask, and we ask, that you sentence him to a place that he deserves to stay for the rest of his life," Sprague said.
Along with the sentence, Sprague also asked for $5,523.82 in restitution costs and that orders of protection be issued for all three children. The order for Thomas Collard Jr., was rescinded at the request of the defense.
Judge Richard Meyer agreed to the agreement.
"There is nothing that I can do here today to make up for what you have done, this court is powerless to do that" Meyer said. "You have deprived your children of their mother, and that is unforgivable - and just as horrendous, you gave them a false hope that they would see her again. Worse, you also placed in their minds the thought that their mother had abandoned them."
Meyer credited the police officers who had continued to work the case, including Troop B Bureau of Criminal Investigations Capt. Robert LaFountain and then offered his opinion, on the record, for the parole board that may hear Collard's request eight years from now.
"Under no circumstance in my view should they ever let you out before you serve all of that 24 years," Meyer said as Collard looked directly at him throughout the sentencing.
Sprague later said that while she was uncomfortable offering a plea agreement in the case, she did so at the request of the family.
"This will give the power back to Tammy and her family," Sprague said.
As for Thomas Collard, he offered no statement as he was sentenced, but did say one thing as he was escorted from the courthouse.
"Just, I didn't do it."